Diabetic athlete Peter Van Rompaey

finishes legendary Marathon des Sables


The Marathon des Sables isdescribed by many as one ofthe toughest footraces on earth.Everything that one needs tocomplete the 5-day, 5-stage 250Kfoot race needs to be carried ina backpack weighing roughly12kg while negotiating someof the harshest terrainimaginable. Temperaturescan soar up to 120 degreesFahrenheit-dangerousconditions for even themost fit of runners. April7th marked the kickoff ofthe 2017 edition with 1350athletes poised to racethrough the sand dunes andinhospitable rocky terrainof the Moroccan SaharaDesert. Among them wasHammer Sponsored AthletePeter Van Rompaey whoset out to become just thesecond diabetic athlete fromBelgium to complete thecourse.

A few months prior to theMarathon des Sables, Petercompleted a 50K training run onthe North C. Trail which windsthrough the dunes of Koksijde,Belgium. I have said since I wasfirst diagnosed at age ten: diabeteswill not stop me, he recalls. Forthe last 32 years, Peter has hadto closely monitor his diet whiletaking daily insulin injections toproperly balance his blood sugar.Peter credits Hammer Nutrition forproviding the fuel he needs for hisrigorous training. HEED, Race CapsSupreme, Mito Caps, Perpetuem,Hammer Bars, and Recoveriteare among his favorite trainingcompanions. The dunes of the NorthC. Trail provided a tough test beforehis trek to Morocco.

Peter has found a great deal ofinspiration from his fellow diabeticBelgian athletes. During a recentlong-distance race, Peter metOlivier Kronal from Heverlee. In2015, Oliver succeeded in his questto become the first ever Belgianwith type-1 diabetes to finish thelegendary Marathon des Sables.That was beyond inspirational forme, says Peter. He also looks toformer professional soccer playeron the Belgian Anderlechtteam, Pär Zetterberg, assomeone who demonstratesthat athletes with diabetescan compete at the highestlevels in sports.

Part of Peter's desire tocomplete the Marathon desSables is to raise money forthe youth department of theDiabetes League. I want toraise money for camps andawareness, but I also wantyoung people to know thatthey can still live an activelife despite being diabetic.I hope to raise more than1,000 euro.

With only four weeks beforeto his departure to Morocco,Peter was physically andmentally ready for the wear and tearhe would subject his body to in thedesert. Figuring out how to carryall his necessities in his backpackwas another challenge that requiredserious consideration. The majorityof his backpack would be filled withfood. Room would also be neededfor a mattress and sleeping bag.Thankfully, race directors wouldprovide tents at the end of each stagewith seven athletes occupying eachtent. The two large water bottleshe would carry could be refilled ateach checkpoint. Peter also hadhis fueling plan dialed in withPerpetuem, Endurolytes Extreme,Anti Fatigue Caps, Hammer Gel andHammer Bars. I carry a FreestyleLibre, a small wireless device thatconnects with a sensor on my armand displays my precise bloodsugar, explains the athlete.

Peter got the green light to competein the race from Dr. PascaleAbrams, Endocrine DiseaseSpecialist at the Saint AugustineHospital. Peter reassured his wifeKristien, also a type-1 diabetic, thathe would keep her and their fourchildren briefed on his progressand condition during the multi-dayevent. I was a bit scared, confessesKristien.

Peter completed the grueling eventin 55:56:14, achieving his goal. Hisbiggest challenges were the heat,short rest periods between stages,wearing a 12kg (26.5 lbs) backpack,and the limited amount of wateravailable to drink. Monitoringhis blood sugar was a constantchallenge and the 86K Stage-4 wasthe toughest day.

When asked if he had advice forathletes who want to participatein the event, Peter replied, takea full year to train and train ontough terrain with 12kg (26.5 lbs)backpack and get plenty of restbetween training sessions. Get usedto climbing on rocks and sleeping onthe ground. During your race, don'tforget to enjoy the moment. Properfueling is essential for this. Go withHammer Nutrition!

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